If it hadn’t been for Cedarville University

I know that I get irritated about some of the things that happen at Cedarville University.  Sometimes when I hear theological arguments about why a person should worship one way and who is really saved I cringe wondering why I hear so many things about these topics and very little discussion about issues like poverty, immigration and tolerance of people with different perspectives.  Someone actually told me that the reason why Christians focus so much on preventing same sex marriage is because it is explicitly discussed in the Bible, but immigration isn’t.  After this gentleman insisted that I really was wrong to say that immigration is clearly mentioned in the Bible, I was gritting my teeth swallowing the desire to smack him.

On the other hand, it’s becoming popular to be socially involved.  I’m not entirely convinced that this is a good thing.  Especially when things happen like: Let’s go collect our old, used shoes and send them to people who don’t wear shoes and still be the forever giver expecting gratitude from our ever-inferior third world country pet-project.

It’s not that Cedarville doesn’t step on my nerves.  However, I would not be the same person had it not been for Cedarville.  Many of my professors have shaped who I am.  My favorite professor freshman year was my voice professor.  She was so much fun and so nice to talk to.  My women’s choir director was such an encouragement.  She made me laugh and taught me a number of lessons that had nothing to do with music or theory (although she did teach me that I would survive through foreign language music.)

I was sucked into the Psychology major because I was fascinated by the human mind and I just wanted to get to know myself.  I was absolutely enthralled by Psychology of the Personality and Abnormal Psychology.

My first experience of engaging multiple viewpoints was for Biology.  I dreaded Biology only to learn that in Mayterm, it was a fantastic and a little interesting class.  However, the most valuable thing I learned in Biology was that there is a wonderful series of books in the library called the “opposing viewpoints series”.  These books share articles and essays from multiple different sides of one issue.  My ability to be able to juggle multiple arguments really began to form in this class.

Social Movements terrified me so much so that I dropped it (and instead took statistics…?)  But when I learned it was required for entry into the Social Work Program, I bravely stormed the castle only to find out that it was one of the most interesting and educational classes that I took in my entire time at Cedarville.

From my social work professors, my eyes were opened to numerous social issues including: mistreatment of individuals in the LGBTQIA community, immigration, race relations, HIV/AIDS, and the list goes on.  I learned to look at the world as a holistic place of different parts that work together and influence each other in intricate ways.

My major required Intro to Philosophy, which just took my mind and twisted it in about a hundred different directions.  I remember one point when my foundation was so rocked that I honestly thought that logically I could not be a Christian.  It was a moment like this when I understood why some people plug their ears yelling, “I can’t hear you” when someone tries to defend an argument against their personal belief.  It’s truly terrifying.  Yet, I learned to love that class.

My major also required an annoying amount of math and science (stupid bachelor of science degree J ) and so I took Bioethics.  Once again, I was amazed by a number of different issues that I had never heard about.   Between Intro to Philosophy and Bioethics, I learned how to think logically and analyze and argument.

My major sent me out into the “real world” for two internship experiences.  While I learned a great deal at my first internship, being somewhat thrown into social work with little experience, my world was rocked at my second internship.

Before I showed up on the doorstep of The PEER Center, I took a semester to prepare myself for my senior internship.  During this semester, two more professors started to open my eyes to Gender Role issues and Urban Poverty.  I said I would never take Urban Min.  Funny story… I did anyway.  I know that I highly disliked both of these classes while I was taking them.  I tried to reconcile with myself how I ended up in three Bible classes when I was pretty certain that I wasn’t a Christian.

Side Note: I was never criticized for questioning my faith.  When I asked if it would be ok to graduate from Cedarville as a non-Christian, I received the loving answer that Cedarville is a great place for a person to struggle with their faith.  In my case this was true, all three of the professors that I told about my doubts about my faith did not demand that I reconcile my faith.  Instead, they patiently listened and recommended books for me to read while I struggled.  Most importantly, I had a counselor that said that we could still work on me becoming a healthier individual even if I wasn’t a Christian.

Back to SIGI and Urban Min, these two classes ended up being extremely helpful personally and when I stepped inside The PEER Center.  I was thrown for a loop when I grasped the reality that I was in the minority as a female and a white individual.  All the talk and knowledge from my social work classes and urban ministry started making sense when I finally started talking with the associates.  Experiences like poverty weekend, the Civil Rights Bus Tour and countless discussions about the invisible white knapsack became opportunities for discussion and my ability to really see what was going on.

I began to recognize that it was one thing to talk to people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds at my internship but another entirely to make eye contact with a black man in my home area.  I am still working to reconcile who I am at when I am “doing social work” and who I am when I am “off the clock”.

But if it hadn’t been for Cedarville and it’s faculty, staff, job opportunities, educational opportunities, counseling staff, and experiences… I would not be the same person.

Thus, while I roll my eyes sometimes when I hear things that Cedarville does, I am still incredibly proud to call myself a Cedarville Alumni and I hope that many other individuals will get that same opportunity.

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Wisdom From My Father

When she grows up

And goes out on her own

Don’t let her forget

The values learned

In a Christian Home

These are the words of wisdom from my father for my adult years. I find it hard to name what specific values I learned at home.  As I think about it, I imagine God handing me gifts saying to my father:

“To Tom’s baby girl, Emily, I give….

The value of meaningful relationships.  She will know how important it is to say “I love you” and tell those close to her how much they matter because she will lose many people that are very dear to her early in life.

The value of not being overly satisfied and confident in who she is.  Some call it Borderline Personality Disorder, I call it being open to my molding.

The value of learning the incomprehensible nature of grace and forgiveness.  She will be deeply wounded by many closest to her and she won’t know how to forgive, but I will give her a glimpse of how much I have forgiven her and shown her grace.

The value of doing her absolute best.  Her mother will never settle for less and neither will I.  She will do great things in my name.

The value of experiencing deep sadness.  She will experience times of darkest depression, begging for death, but I will sustain her.  With this gift she will be able to sit with those deepest in despair and show them my love.

The value of respecting herself and others.  She will be told lies by others and herself, but I will continue wooing her and reminding her of the truth.  It is only from this personal experience that she will be able to truly grasp the importance of the dignity and worth of the individual.

The value of doing your best to raise your kids, no matter the circumstances.  Her mother will sacrifice everything for her and her sister.

The value of self-sacrifice.  She will see her mother come to the point of almost losing her job to take care of you, her dad, as you die from cancer.

It will be a hard and long road.  She won’t believe that she will make it, but Tom, I will not give up on her.  You will not see the day when she understands and appreciates these values, but I am preparing her and molding her.  One day she will see the opportunity and skills that these experiences and values provide.  You should be proud of your little girl.  I know I am. ”

I’m not sure I would pick these values on my own.  I would probably never choose them myself.  But, the more I mourn and learn to move on from the things in my past, I realize that the very things that hurt me the most were the some of the most beneficial training grounds to be who I am and where I am at.  I am beginning to understand that my wound is where my strength lies.

Thanks Dad.

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